CONNECTICUT 4, BRIDGEPORT 1
Jeremy Williams posted a goal and two assists as Connecticut started strong and never looked back en route to a 4-1 road win over Bridgeport on Friday, clinching a spot in the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Whale secured their spot courtesy of the victory coupled with Worcester’s 2-1 loss in Charlotte. Connecticut will return to the postseason after missing out for the first time in club history last year, when the team was still known as the Hartford Wolf Pack.
A 2011 AHL All-Star, Williams assisted on goals by Ryan Garlock and rookie Blake Parlett in the first and second periods, respectively, before nabbing his team-leading 32nd of the season on the power play late in the second frame.
John Mitchell added a late empty-net marker for the Whale, who outshot Bridgeport 18-3 in the first period alone and finished with a 40-22 advantage in shots on goal.
The Whale will open the 2011 postseason next week against either Portland or Manchester.
Rookie David Ullstrom notched the lone goal for the Sound Tigers, who will look for revenge when these teams conclude their season series on Saturday night at the XL Center in Hartford.
TEXAS 3, MILWAUKEE 2
Travis Morin struck for a pair of goals, and Texas officially punched its ticket to the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs on Friday with a 3-2 road win over first-place Milwaukee at the Bradley Center.
The defending conference champion Stars will return to the postseason after falling to Hershey in a six-game Calder Cup Finals series last June.
Raymond Sawada staked Texas to a 1-0 lead just 3:05 after the opening face-off, and Morin made it 2-0 on the power play midway through the second period with his 20th goal of the season.
Defenseman Grant Lewis put Milwaukee on the board with a power play marker of his own at 6:18 of the third frame, but Morin restored the Stars’ two-goal advantage at 16:41. In so doing, Morin matched the career-high 21 goals which he scored last season for Texas.
Mike Bartlett pulled the Admirals within a goal in the closing minute, but it was too little, too late for a Milwaukee squad which is still stuck on a magic number of one point to clinch the West Division title over Houston.
Stars rookie goaltender Richard Bachman (28-18-5) secured the victory with 31 saves on 33 shots between the pipes, helping his team remain tied with Peoria for third place in the West. Texas has two games remaining to the Rivermen’s one.
PEORIA 5, CHICAGO 2
Five different skaters found the back of the net, and Peoria clinched a playoff spot and dealt a severe blow to Chicago’s hopes with a 5-2 win over the visiting Wolves on Friday at Carver Arena.
The Rivermen (42-29-3-5, 92 points) extended their winning streak to three games and their points streak to five (4-0-1-0), and Peoria remained tied with Texas for third place in the West Division.
Peoria is returning to the Calder Cup Playoffs following a one-year absence in 2010.
The Wolves took early control of this one on first-period goals by Andre Deveaux (1:55) and Jason Krog (19:50), but Peoria quickly took command courtesy of a whopping 22-4 shots advantage in the middle stanza.
Stefan Della Rovere put the Rivermen on the board 5:23 into the frame, and Akim Aliu tied it up at 18:07. Ex-Wolves defenseman Nathan Oystrick put Peoria on top to stay with a power play strike 42 seconds into the third period, and Anthony Nigro and Nicholas Drazenovic added insurance goals from there, the latter into an empty net.
With two games left, Chicago is now three points back of Oklahoma City for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
CHARLOTTE 2, WORCESTER 1
Charlotte wrapped up the third seed in the East Division on Friday with a 2-1 victory over visiting Worcester before 9,813 fans at Time Warner Cable Arena, eliminating the Sharks from playoff contention in the process.
After a scoreless first period, Jacob Micflikier and Cedric McNicoll notched second-period markers to give Charlotte control. Micflikier netted his 29th goal of the season after having never scored more than 18 in the AHL prior to this year, and McNicoll’s strike came on the power play.
Checkers goaltender Justin Pogge secured the win with 21 saves in net, improving to 22-18-4 on the season.
Charlotte will take on two-time defending Calder Cup champion Hershey in the East Division semifinals, beginning on Thursday in central Pennsylvania.
John McCarthy potted a third-period goal for the Sharks, who will miss the playoffs just one year after capturing the Atlantic Division title.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday night in Charlotte.
ABBOTSFORD 6, GRAND RAPIDS 0
Abbotsford kept its playoff hopes alive in a big way on Friday, pouring 42 shots on net and blitzing Grand Rapids for six goals in a 6-0 shutout on Friday at Van Andel Arena.
The Griffins were officially eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.
Heat forward Ryan Stone led the way with two goals and three assists for a five-point effort, and he now shows six points (3-3-6) in his last two contests and 25 points (11-14-25) in 49 outings for the season.
Jon Rheault (1-2-3) and Carter Bancks (0-3-3) also picked up three points for Abbotsford, while MacGregor Sharp and Ales Kotalik rounded out the offense. The Heat scored once in the first period, three times in the second, and twice more in the third frame.
Heat goaltender Leland Irving stopped all 27 shots he faced to earn his 30th win of the season (30-23-2) and league-leading eighth shutout.
With Oklahoma City’s win over San Antonio, Abbotsford’s tragic number to be eliminated from the playoffs stands at just one point with two days left in the season.
MANCHESTER 4, ADIRONDACK 1
Rookie forward Brandon Kozun tallied a pair of goals, and Manchester stayed alive for the Atlantic Division title on Friday with a 4-1 win over visiting Adirondack before 8,163 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Kozun, who entered the night having gone eight straight games without finding the back of the net, struck for his 22nd and 23rd goals of the season, scoring once apiece in the first and third periods.
Manchester rookie goaltender Martin Jones (23-12-1) picked up the win in net with 32 saves on 33 shots.
The Monarchs (44-25-4-6, 98 points) now sit two points back of first-place Portland in the Atlantic Division and are idle on Saturday before concluding their regular-season slate in Providence on Sunday. The Pirates visit Albany on Saturday and can clinch the division with any result except a regulation loss.
Mike Testwuide netted the lone goal for the Phantoms, whose four-game winning streak came to an end.
PROVIDENCE 5, PORTLAND 4
Rookie forward Jordan Caron netted a pair of goals as Providence edged visiting Portland by a 5-4 count on Friday in front of 8,871 fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
A first-round draft pick by Boston in 2009, Caron picked up his 11th and 12th AHL goals of the season. Fellow top prospects Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight, each making his professional debut, picked up an assist apiece on Caron’s markers.
Zach Hamill registered a goal and an assist for the Bruins, Stefan Chaput nabbed the eventual game-winning goal, and Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman also scored in the winning effort. Defenseman Colby Cohen chipped in two assists on the night.
Providence goaltender Anton Khudobin earned the victory with 26 saves on 30 shots between the pipes.
Paul Byron led the Pirates with a goal and two assists, while 2011 AHL rookie of the year Luke Adam posted a goal and a helper along with Mark Parrish. Portland’s magic number to clinch the Atlantic Division title remains at one point.
HERSHEY 2, WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 1
Andrew Kozek scored once apiece in the first and second periods, and that proved to be enough as Hershey held on for a 2-1 road win over arch-rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday before 8,106 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Kozek put Hershey on the board with an unassisted goal midway through the opening period and extended the lead to 2-0 at 5:37 of the second frame.
The 24-year-old Kozek now boasts four goals and seven points in 12 games since joining the Bears after beginning the season with 12 points (7-5-12) in 57 games with the Chicago Wolves.
Brett Sterling’s 26th goal of the season, scored on the power play, put the Penguins on the board midway through the third stanza. But Wilkes-Barre was unable to strike again and saw its five-game winning streak come to an end.
Goaltender Braden Holtby (17-9-2) earned the win with 24 saves for the Bears, who reached the 100-point plateau on the season (46-24-3-5, 100 points). Hershey is now guaranteed to open up the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs against Charlotte, beginning next Thursday at the Giant Center.
This marked just the Bears’ second victory in nine tries against the Penguins this season (2-5-1-1). The teams will collide again on Saturday night in Hershey.
SPRINGFIELD 6, ALBANY 0
Springfield captain Ben Guite netted a pair of goals as the Falcons rolled to a 6-0 win over visiting Albany on Friday at the MassMutual Center.
Rookie defenseman David Savard posted a goal and two assists on the night, while fellow rookie Tomas Kubalik (1-1-2), Nick Tarnasky, and Trevor Smith rounded out the offense for the Falcons, who are now 4-2-0-0 in their last six games and have reached the six-goal mark three times in that span.
The Devils are 2-6-0-1 in their last nine contests and have been outscored 10-1 in dropping their past two outings.
BINGHAMTON 4, ROCHESTER 2
Defenseman Geoff Kinrade tallied a pair of goals and team captain Ryan Keller put up a game-high three points (1-2-3) as Binghamton stayed hot by doubling up host Rochester by a 4-2 count on Friday at the Blue Cross Arena.
The Senators picked up a point for the ninth time in their last 11 games (8-2-0-1), improved to 42-29-3-5 (92 points) overall, and moved one point up on Norfolk for fourth place in the East Division.
Whoever finishes fourth will draw regular-season champion Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the opening playoff round, while the fifth-place finisher earns a crossover ticket to the Atlantic Division playoffs.
Kinrade picked up his fifth and sixth goals of the season, scoring both on the power play. Keller’s late second-period marker also came on the man-advantage, as Binghamton’s top-ranked unit finished a perfect 3-for-3 on the night.
OKLAHOMA CITY 7, SAN ANTONIO 2
The line of Colin McDonald, Alexandre Giroux, and Brad Moran proved huge for Oklahoma City on Friday as the Barons moved a big step closer to the playoffs with a 7-2 road win over San Antonio at the AT&T Center.
McDonald racked up a career-high four goals while taking 10 shots on net, and both Giroux and Moran assisted on all four markers. He scored once in the first period, twice in the second, and closed the game’s offense midway through the third frame.
McDonald, who had never scored more than 12 goals in any of his previous three AHL seasons, now ranks second in the AHL with an impressive 40 markers (40-14-54) in 78 games this year.
Oklahoma City goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers made the offensive outburst stand up, finishing with 19 saves on 21 shots.
The Barons (39-28-2-9, 89 points) earned their third consecutive win and moved three points up on Chicago for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with two games left to play.
ROCKFORD 4, LAKE ERIE 2
Rookie forward Brandon Pirri was one of three Rockford skaters to record a goal and an assist on the night as the IceHogs doubled up playoff-bound Lake Erie by a 4-2 count on Friday at the MetroCentre.
Rob Klinkhammer and 2011 AHL All-Star defenseman Brian Connelly joined Pirri in posting a goal and a helper for the IceHogs, and Peter LeBlanc rounded out the offense. Leading scorer Jeff Taffe contributed a pair of assists.
Rockford goaltender Hannu Toivonen picked up the victory in net, stopping 26 of 28 shots to record his 20th win of the campaign (20-16-4).
Despite the fact that they will miss the playoffs for the first time in four seasons in the AHL, the IceHogs are finishing strong. Rockford has won three straight and eight of nine (8-1-0-0), and this victory assured the IceHogs (36-33-4-5) of a record better than .500 this season.
Julian Talbot and Matthew Ford recorded goals for the Monsters, who remained one point back of Manitoba for second place in the North Division and three back of first-place Hamilton with two games to play.
HAMILTON 6, MANITOBA 3
Hamilton scored three times in the second period and three more times in the third en route to a 6-3 road win over Manitoba on Saturday at the MTS Centre in the opener of a two-game weekend set.
Aaron Palushaj racked up a hat trick and added an assist to pace the Bulldogs’ attack, notching his 20th and 21st goals of the season just over a minute apart in the second period before adding number 22 early in the third frame.
Andrew Conboy, Dustin Boyd, and Ian Schultz also scored for Hamilton; Nigel Dawes (0-3-3) and defenseman Kyle Klubertanz (0-2-2) each chipped in multiple assists; and ‘Dogs goaltender Drew MacIntyre stopped 28 of 31 shots to earn the win in net.
With its seventh win in eight games (7-1-0-0), Hamilton assured itself of finishing ahead of Manitoba in the North Division standings. The first-place Bulldogs (43-27-2-7, 95 points) are now three points up on third-place Lake Erie (92), but the Monsters have two games remaining to the Bulldogs’ one.
That one game comes on Saturday night when Hamilton takes on Manitoba for a rematch in Winnipeg.